Years before everyone was being impressed with the human-like text output of ChatGPT and other generative AI systems, IBM's Watson was blowing our minds on Jeopardy. IBM's cognitive computing project famously dominated its human opponents, but the company had much larger long-term goals, such as using Watson's ability to simulate a human thought process to help doctors diagnose patients and recommend treatments. That didn't work out. Now, IBM is pivoting its supercomputer platform into Watsonx, an AI development studio packed with foundation and open-source models companies can use to train their own AI platforms.
If that sounds familiar, it may be because NVIDIA recently announced a similar service with its AI Foundations program. Both platforms are designed to give enterprises a way to build, train, scale and deploy an AI platform. IBM says Watsonx will provide AI builders with a robust series of training models with an auditable data lineage — ranging from datasets focused on automatically generating code for developers or for handling industry-specific databases to climate datasets designed to help organizations plan for natural disasters.
IBM has already built an example of what the platform can do with that latter dataset in collaboration with NASA, using the geospatial foundation model to convert satellite images into maps that track changes from natural disasters and climate change.
Reimagining Watson as an AI development studio might lack the pizazz of a headline-grabbing supercomputer that can beat humans on a TV quiz show — but the original vision of Watson was out of reach for the average person. Depending on how companies use IBM's new AI training program, you may find yourself interacting with a part of Watson yourself sometime in the near future.
Watsonx is expected to be available in stages, starting with the Watsonx.ai studio in July, and expanding with new features debuting later this year.